The Barber family of Cambridgeshire

Recorded as far back as the late 16th century and the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the Barber family have rarely strayed from their home in the fenland of Cambridgeshire for hundreds of years.

A large piece of this research is down to the hard work of fellow researcher and distant relative Robert Whiteside (my fifth cousin, twice removed!), who has spent time collecting information and transcribing wills.

Barber family of Witcham

The earliest date on this entire site is that of the burial of my maternal 13x Great Grandfather, John Barber in 1589. Witcham's burial records don't appear to reach this far back, but a copy of John's will gives vital information about him, his livelihood and his family. It shows the division of his worldly pocessions ranging from money to sheets, from beds to cupboards, and details to whom each item should be given (occasionally with some conditions to be met first).

It's easy to stumble across the Barber family when looking at the other surnames in the fenland around Ely due to the large families that they bore.

It seems that there are two ancestral Barber families, although i strongly suspect that they are in fact one and the same as they both lead me back to Witcham - a small village sitting on a dry land hill in the fenland of Cambridgeshire, England. The village is just North West of Ely and close to the villages of Mepal, Wentworth and Sutton where occasional Barber parish register entries can be spotted.

Wenham Barber: a family naming tradition

For six generations, the Barber family gave a son the first name of 'Wenham'. The first seems to occur in 1660 with the baptism of my 9x Grandfather Wenham Barber, and the most recent one (a distant cousin, but no less a descendent) Wenham Barber born in 1864.

Whilst the origin of this name is unclear, the tradition of naming a son Wenham has so far stretched 204 years. I have two ideas as to the origin of this name: The first is that as the earliest Wenham's mother Joane is lacking her maiden name due to it missing in the marriage register, that it might be Wenham; the second is that it might have been Joane's mother's surname.

Throughout my research I've often seen maiden names of mothers and grandmothers turn up as first names, but for now though, the origin of Wenham remains a mystery.

Origins of the Barber surname

The Barber surname is most likely of an occupational derivation - the job of cutting hair.

During the Middle Ages, a Barber may have also undertaken tooth extraction and minor surgical procedures. However, finding a link back this far would prove very difficult, and I certainly don't expect to find any evidence from then that would prove my ancestors were cutting hair for work.

Barber family connections

The Barber family are linked to a number of my ancestral families including:

Further Reading